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Every Friday night, Baltimore's Club 1722 sizzles with Sugar, an after-hours party that's been pumping the finest in old and new house music for nearly five years. And at the helm is the Sugar Girl Squad, consisting of DJs Lisa Moody and Ultra Naté.
"There's still those few people out there looking for an alternative to the pretentious places where they've gotta pay a million dollars to get in and then a million dollars for a drink, and then the actual atmosphere is wack," says Ultra, who is better known throughout the world for her 19-year-and-counting career as a popular house and R&B vocalist. (She recently topped the Billboard club/dance charts for the seventh time and released her fifth album, Grime, Silk & Thunder.) "So fortunately there still are some people who actually do wanna just go and hear some music and go to a place where nobody really cares what your [economic] situation is about and there's just a vibe."
"We would always go to the same couple places and hear the same kind of music and the same DJs," recalls Moody, "and it just wasn't happening. There was just something missing, and that's when [Ultra] got the bright idea to throw a party."
Ultra's world travels have prepared her to make Sugar go down easily by including out-of-town guest performers such as Martha Wash, Louie Vega, Barbara Tucker, Joi Cardwell, and Byron Stingily. She and Moody make sure everything is arranged with a personal touch. She's also seen features at international parties she'd love to incorporate into Sugar if she could fulfill her true vision.
"We're limited by the size of our space and we have to manage our week-to-week situation, so I can't go crazy on the budgets," Ultra explains. "But if I could, I've seen all kinds of really fun, interesting, and cool things both visually and sonically that would be nice to make happen at the party. At the end of the day, though, you have to be on top of the economics, and Lisa and one of the other DJs is always reeling me back from my grand schemes. They're a bit of a killjoy," she laughs. "We've been holding off on stilt walkers for some time now, but this anniversary, it's goin' down!"
It is suggested they might start small, with one stilt walker. Moody laughs and says of Ultra: "She doesn't do anything small!"